By May Thet Hnin
Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) International, an international non-governmental organisation, is conducting a geotechnical investigation to construct a small airport in Lailenpi Town in Matupi Township, Mindat District, southern Chin State.
This small airport can accommodate high performance short takeoff and landing aircraft, with a seating capacity of 13 people and a length of 800 metres.
The small airport will be constructed with some US$2.2 million provided by MAF. MAF will support the operations of up to three aircraft depending on demand, after receiving the requisite approval of the government, said Chad Tilley, Country Director of MAF Myanmar.
The government approved the construction of the MAF-funded small airport in July 2017. Currently, a geotechnical investigation is being carried out. Construction will begin in November, delayed due to the current unfavourable weather conditions. The airport is expected to be completed by April 2020, and it is slated to open in May 2020.
Lailenpi has a population of 40,000. The far-flung town is not easily accessible. It can be accessed by road only between January and April, and hiking is the only option during the other months. The construction project will resolve the state’s transport problems by opening up access via air.
The road trip to Lailenpi takes some five days from Yangon, while it is only 90 minutes away by air.
The airport will help tackle emergency problems, boost tourism development, attract investors and enhance trade. It will help implement the government’s regional development activities and execute the government’s programmes for balanced development across the country by narrowing the gap between rural and urban development growth, said Chad Tilley.
Once the government’s approval is received, all types of aircraft will be allowed to land at this small airport.
“It (Lailenpi) received a rural road only three years ago. The local people mostly travel by motorcycle, but this is not possible in the rainy season. As a result, the local people find it difficult to access education and health services. Some have lost their lives on the way to the public hospital. The airport can save people’s lives,” said Hiva, a resident of Lailenpi.
The town is rich in natural scenic beauty. If transport facilities improve, tourism sites will emerge, said the locals.
MAF is providing humanitarian and regional development assistance. It has provided 135 small aircraft to more than 30 developing countries.
After this project, MAF will continue to seek approval from the government to build more small airports in other far-flung areas.
Dr. Sasa, CEO and founder of Health and Hope Myanmar, endeavoured for MAF to help develop a small airport in Lailenpi. Health and Hope Myanmar is planning to provide free emergency services to the local people after the construction of the airport. Of the 69 airports under the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, only 33 are operational. There is a plan in place to renovate the small airports. The new airport will help improve the socio-economic situation of the local people, said U Kyaw Soe, director of the Department of Civil Aviation.